Surf report keeps the mystery alive in Bolinas

David Briggs
Shop owner Drew Reinstein rejected a webcam for poetic descriptions of the daily break.    

Describe the scene, but don’t reveal too much—and keep it wacky. That’s the philosophy of the owner of 2 Mile Surf Shop, Drew Reinstein, who writes an early-morning surf report for the popular Bolinas breaks, along with a handful of staff members. 

The entries describe the ocean in evocative, unexpected language, a mixture of surf lingo and poetry. Going beyond the technicalities, they feature an inspirational quote and a photo of a crystal—and hints of the author’s mood and outlook that day. 

“We don’t just want to say literally what’s happening, but also to transport you to Bolinas, to make you feel it,” said Ginger Smith, an employee who walks to the water three mornings a week to write the report. 

Entries can also include brief updates about happenings in town. In preparation for Labor Day festivities, last Sunday’s report included, “A still chill at 52 begins the opening scene of act 2. Familiar props being arranged on-set by roadies making sure everything is in place. As preparations begin, character actors check the stage in hope of action and adventure. Three desperados armed with four guitar cases start the journey. Come on, let’s see if we can play!” (Ms. Smith said she had watched “Desperado” the night before.)

The reports are meant to indicate, generally, whether conditions are good or bad—without giving too much away. On days when there are road closures or stormy conditions, the report makes that clear—“Not every day is a surf day,” Mr. Reinstein said.  

For instance, Sunday’s report on water conditions read, “Ya know when you leave an open can of pop overnight in the fridge, and you reach in to grab it in the morning for a quick sip, only to be greeted with a flat salty sweet taste in your mouth. Ya, it’s kinda like that.” (Ms. Smith said she often is tasked with finding new analogies for “flat.”)

The report reflects Mr. Reinstein’s overall goal to strike a balance between helping people discover the sport and letting them figure it out on their own. 

Learning to understand wind, tides, swell and how they all interact takes time, he said, and the report isn’t meant to replace that process. (On a day when conditions are ideal, he added, the report won’t necessarily spell that out, leaning toward more cryptic language and letting the crowds come on their own.) 

Mr. Reinstein, who has owned the shop since 2009, said he declined an opportunity from Surfline to manage a camera that would broadcast live footage of the break online. “I said no one in Bolinas would appreciate that; I wouldn’t appreciate that,” he said.  

Instead, he explained, “I want to be the camera—providing a snapshot, real time, in the moment. And I don’t go back, throughout the day, as everything shifts. I don’t update with wind and weather and tide change.” 

A New York native, Mr. Reinstein attended the University of California, Santa Cruz and has stayed in California ever since. He recalls using an A.M. radio and maps to figure out surf conditions with his friends in Santa Cruz. Still drawn to old-school methods, he uses a printed tide calendar as a diary, describing when and where he surfed, what the conditions were like and who joined him for company; he has stacks of saved calendars. 

Surfing wasn’t always his day-to-day. After earning a biology degree, Mr. Reinstein went to work for Chevron as a marine biologist. It was a one-year stint meant to pay his bills, but a year turned into 20. After he retired in 2008, he bought High Tide Surf Shop in Petaluma with a friend. A year later, he bought 2 Mile from the original co-owners, Nick Krieger and John Moore, who continue to teach lessons and shape boards for the shop, respectively. 

In 2016, Mr. Reinstein sold the Petaluma store to focus all his energy on Bolinas.  

Right now, Mr. Reinstein, who splits his time between Petaluma and Bolinas, alternates with two other staff members to write the daily reports—whoever has the early-morning shift. But, he says, he encourages his staff to get creative, keeping a more or less consistent narrative voice. 

“When I get to be in the water, that’s when I get most inspired,” he said. “A day that begins with surfing is a perfect day. And on a day that ends with surfing, after working our asses off at the shop, there is a sense of completion.”

He added, with a smile, “If I don’t surf, I guess I’m pretty grumpy.” 


2 Mile Surf Shop’s surf reports can be found online at